Vocab Friday: Geburtshilfe

Cletus, in hospital issued jammies

Hello world. I’m writing to you from that strange other universe where parents of newborns exist in a hazy half comatose state of consciousness, unable to perform anything other than the most basic of life-sustaining tasks with any real precision or competence. I have passed the land of spontaneous crying and moved on to the realm of magical thinking, a place where chronic sleep deprivation sets in and you actually think you feel OK but really you just boiled a cup of milk and stuck a box of rice in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Needless to say, I have neglected the blog. And I am a huge wuss when it comes to not sleeping. I don’t know how doctors do it. I can barely operate a can opener on less than 6 hours of sleep, so I cannot fathom how medical professionals are expected to pull all-nighters AND perform life-saving surgeries. Or, you know, roll up to the hospital at 2am to deliver a baby.

Which brings me to Ulli. Ulli was hands down the most awesome part about giving birth a second time. Where my first birth experience was full of feisty French nurses and a lot of hilarious miscommunication, Ulli made sure this time around was nothing more than calm, soothing words (in English!) and bubble baths with lavender oil. Seriously. She drew me a bath and brought me snacks. And her soft blue gaze never registered anything other than confident encouragement, reassuring me through the whole labor process that I was going to be fine.

Lest you think I’ve gone all hippy earth mother on you, let me explain that here in Austria it’s customary for midwives to handle the labor and delivery process, while the doctors just kind of hang out in case there’s an emergency. That goes for the hospital staff midwives or the private ones, like Ulli. She came highly recommended from my obstetrician, and has been delivering babies for 23 years. Her office is covered in photos of all the little nuggets she’s helped into this world. And she promised to deliver my baby while leaving my hoo-hah largely intact. Which means if she had asked me to hang upside down from my toes while singing Kumbaya through my contractions, I would have done it.

But she didn’t. When it was go time, she instead greeted me at the geburtshilfe wing of the hospital with a reassuring smile, while Husband searched for parking and some poor woman down the hall shrieked and moaned in an almost comic fashion. I mean, I’m not one to judge what kind of noise someone makes during birth. I think I shouted lengthy strings of curse words, Exorcist style. But this was like something out of a movie, too exaggerated to be real and too loud to just ignore.

I kind of giggled and said that whoever was in the room next door didn’t sound so good. Ulli looked up from the heart monitor and shrugged. “Eh, first baby.”

She’s a tough one, Ulli. But the best in Austria, I’m sure of it. Danke Ulli!

*     *     *

geburtshilfe: midwifery or obstetrics. As in “Hopefully if you come to visit me in Vienna you will not have any reason to visit the geburtshilfe floor at the hospital. Although I can highly recommend their fruit and cheese plate.” 



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